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Mechanisms of Pain

Research areas

Central and peripheral mechanisms including molecular (inflammation, genetics, genomics) and brain mechanisms (brain imaging), also targeting hormones and cannabinoid receptors.

Sub theme goals and objectives

  • Bring together basic researchers across the discipline with the aim to understand the mechanisms of pain
  • Form a bridge between the basic science and clinical researchers to test the hypothesis with the aim to translate the research findings to bed side
  • Develop novel mechanisms based approach for the treatment of pain
  • Engagement with stakeholders, national and international organisations/associations
  • Obtain research funding to conduct basic and translational research and clinical trials.

Current activities

Summer studentship 2016/17:  Transport of allopurinol/oxypurinol in adverse drug-drug with furosemide in hypertensive gout patients

Student: Khanh Nguyen
Department: Physiology
Supervisor: Dr. Andrew Bahn

Lay abstract: Gout is caused by elevated serum uric acid (SUA). Allopurinol, the gold standard treatment for gout, is converted into oxypurinol, which acts to lower SUA. High SUA is often associated with hypertension. However, furosemide, used to treat hypertension, compromises the therapeutic effect of allopurinol, consequently, a higher dosage is required which leads to adverse effects. Therefore, we hypothesized that drug-drug interaction occurs between furosemide and allopurinol in the liver, possibly at the allopurinol transporter. Using a human liver cancer cell line, HepG2 cells, as a functional model, we investigated possible transporter(s) of allopurinol/oxypurinol by profiling the expression of candidate genes and the effect different drugs have on UA levels. So far, OAT2 transporter remains the prime candidate for uptake of allopurinol across from the blood into liver cell. With better understanding of allopurinol’s transport mechanism, guidelines for allopurinol dosage can be improved to minimise adverse effects in hypertensive gout patients.

Group members

Otago members

Dr Rajesh Katare (Department of Physiology)

Rajesh Katare 280x187Research

Molecular markers of acute myocardial infarction: Development of novel biomarkers (microRNAs) to identify the patients at the risk of developing heart disease.
Understanding the mechanisms for diabetes induced neuropathic pain in patients with peripheral vascular disease.
Identifying molecular link between sedentary behaviour and cardiovascular disease


Heart Foundation NZ
Otago Medical Research Foundation
Royal Society of New Zealand Catalyst Seed Funding
Lottery Health Grant

PhD Students

Shruti Rawal – Identifying the molecular markers of heart disease
Joshua Neale: Molecular mechanisms and novel treatment of pain in peripheral vascular disease

Professor Madhav Bhatia (Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, Christchurch)

Dr Shakila Rizwan (School of Pharmacy)

Dr Andrea Vernall (School of Pharmacy)


Design, organic synthesis and biological analysis of new molecules for a variety of diseases and conditions. In particular, small molecules, peptidomimetics and chemical tools for interrogating GPCR structure and function.
Current projects relevant to pain theme include:

  • Fluorescent tools for cannabinoid receptors
  • Small molecule probes to study cannabinoid receptor trafficking
  • Peptidomimetics as neuropeptide

Dr Louise Parr-Brownlie (Department of Anatomy)


Brain circuitry and function in health and chronic pain.
Use a preclinical model to investigate changes in cell activity, cell numbers or their connections with chronic pain.
Specific interest in complex regional pain syndrome.
Combine rat behavioural assessments, electrophysiology, immunohistochemistry, viral vectors and optogenetic (light) stimulation.
Future studies will involve stimulation to normalise function.

Staff and students

Pain - Niamh Cameron (Summer Studentship 2016/17)

Professor Wayne Gillet (Department of Women’s & Children’s Health, Dunedin School of Medicine)

Dr Ramakrishnan Mani (School of Physiotherapy)

Graduate research

Carrie Falling, Persistent musculoskeletal pain
among individuals with immune-mediated chronic inflammatory conditions (2017-2020)

Professor Mauro Farella (School of Dentistry)

Graduate research

2017 Small Project awardee
PhD candidate, Sabarinath Prasad, is the successful recipient of Pain@Otago's small project award for 2017. Sabarinath's project tests the validation of a wireless device to assess EG activity in freely moving subjects. The assessing committee were impressed with the proposal and the potential for the research to extend to other members of the Pain theme. Read more about the project.

In the news

"The daily grind"
The Listener Magazine, August 19, 2017
Theme member, Professor Mauro Farella talks to the Listener Magazine about Bruxism (teeth grinding) and masticatory muscle pain.

Dr Melanie Bussey (School of Physical Education, Sport, and Exercise Science)


Identifying central and peripheral mechanisms for altered motor control in chronic pelvic girdle pain.


Health Research Council of New Zealand
Otago Medical Research Foundation
Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust
Spondyloarthritis Research Consortium of Canada

PhD Students (most relevant)

Jim Webb – (ongoing) Neural reflex loops and the sacrotuberous ligament.
Daniela Aldabe (completed 2016) – The impact of pregnancy on postural control: The predictive value of postural control variables for pelvic girdle pain.

Dr Andrew Bahn (Department of Physiology)


Identifying renal and hepatic oxypurinol transporters to decipher drug-drug interactions in hypertensive gout patients
Identification of the main kynurenic acid efflux transporter to understand endogenous neuroprotection and pain


Dean’s Bequest Grant, Otago Medical Research Foundation
Lottery Health Grant, Prostate Cancer Foundation, HRC

External members

Dr Bronwyn Kivell (VUW)


Sub- theme lead, Dr Rajesh Katare or